Monday, 2 April 2012

Easter Afternoon Tea

With the extended Easter Bank Holiday weekend approaching, it's the perfect time to sit back and have a leisurely afternoon tea with friends and family.  Adding to the usual delights of finger sandwiches and scones, synonymous with afternoon tea, I love the extra dimension that Easter specialities can bring to the table.  Taking inspiration from past and present Easter Menus from quintessentially English Afternoon Tea institutions such as The Ritz London and Claridge's, adding hot cross buns (especially if home-made) is a must-do.  

My Easter Tea will of course have hot cross buns (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose etc have flavoured varieties to try), as well as a hearty portion of Simnel Cake.  There are some interesting historical facts behind Simnel Cake although some of it is conflicting.  Some say that this light fruit, marzipan covered cake was baked traditionally on Mother's Day by young servant girls who would have the day off to visit their mothers and bake one to take with them.  Other stories are that the marzipan balls featured on top of the cake, represent 11 apostles (minus Judas - obvious reasons!) and is therefore really an Easter cake.  Whatever the history/ies may be, I think of Simnel Cake as Easter's version of Christmas Cake and an essential part of the spread.  Celebrity cooks such as Nigella, Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver et al all have Simnel Cake recipes if you fancy baking this Easter, but supermarkets have great alternative options too.  As well as the round cake version, you can also buy a long 'cake bar' size and Mr Kipling do individually wrapped Simnel Slices which are ideal, not only for Tea, but for lunch packs or picnics. 

Simnel Cake Bar

Over the years I have also become quite attached to Nigella's recipe for 'Easter Egg Nest Cake' which is featured in her book 'Feast'.  It's pure cream and chocolate indulgence with the added seasonal sweetness of Mini Eggs.  I like to place it in the fridge once cooked and assembled as it 'fudges' up making it even more delicious.  I also make this as an Easter Day Lunch dessert which always goes down a treat! 

Nigella's Easter Egg Nest Cake

I could go on forever with cake ideas but my final offering is 'Damp Apple and Almond Cake', also from Nigella's 'Feast' book.  Although this has been categorised as a cake made for the Jewish festival of Passover, but as Passover falls very near to Easter I think that the recipe can be shared for both occasions.  The use of ground almonds in lieu of flour in this recipe observes the use of un-leaven goods as is customary for Passover, but forming part of a Tea selection, this cake offers a fruity, gluten-free alternative to chocolate. 

So whether you're baking or buying, the choices for Easter are endless and if you've given up chocolate or sweet goodies for Lent, an Easter Tea packed with cakes will be the perfect occasion to re-acquaint yourself with the forbidden fruit (cake)!

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